Kentucky health officials on Friday announced the state’s first death believed to be caused by a vaping-related lung injury. The identity of the victim, a man in his late 20s, was not publicized.
“We are saddened to announce the death associated with this outbreak,” said Eric Friedlander, acting secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, in a news release. “To protect public health, we urge Kentuckians — especially young people — to stop using all vaping products.”
The Kentucky Department for Public Health has received 48 reports of lung injury linked to the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products, according to a news release from the agency. It has confirmed seven and dismissed 11.
Thirteen more, including the man who died Friday, are considered “probable” but unconfirmed — cases involving lung injury and vaping but also other confounding factors, such as existing respiratory disease. Other cases remain pending.
Local and national agencies began investigating the health impact of vaping in mid-2019, when agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publicized reports of a widespread but previously unknown lung condition found primarily in e-cigarette users. At least 50 victims had died by Friday afternoon.
The CDC refers to the condition as EVALI — e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury. Many cases of EVALI, officials discovered in late 2019, were associated with the use of e-cigarette products containing THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana. A chemical compound called vitamin E acetate, which some health officials believe is responsible for EVALI, was detected in samples of THC vape products and lung fluid from people with such injuries.
The outbreak prompted government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration to ban a variety of vaping products, including cartridges in fruit and mint flavors. The FDA announced Jan. 2 it had finalized a policy penalizing any company that did not discontinue the manufacture and sale of such products.